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What becomes of a legend as it is influenced by the years - as different people come across it and respond in different ways? A musing on the subject, vaguely influenced by Charles de Lint.
Notes: Written in the course of a midday hour in a fit of whimsy, taking a break from writing an English research paper on the evolution of the Lilith myth. A weird piece -- but to blame Lilith herself would be ultimately contradictory, wouldn't it? Some inspiration comes from one of Charles de Lint's Newford stories, where Coyote addresses the same sort of topic.
There is a type of quilt they make called a crazy-quilt. Pieced together from scraps of every kind of fabric imaginable, the shapes within it are of no particular pattern; the quilt is made from what they have, pieced together into a final form that suits their purposes. Fragments from here and there -- a wedding dress, a child's pajamas, a grown woman's first baby blanket -- finding a cohesion of sorts.
I am become a crazy-quilt, perhaps.
What can you do when they call you so many things that the very fabric of your being is pulled every-which-way? We who exist as legends are created from the minds of man as much as any God; do they not realise it is they who dictate how we behave, what we are, where we came from?
In the beginning things were simple enough. Few people thought of me, and when they did it was along the same lines. Demoness, spawner of witches, who sported with demons on the shores of the Red Sea and gave birth to a multitude. But they killed my children, and they said that in my anger, I swore to murder the children of humanity, for I was no longer one one of them. Not since my exile from Eden.
I am become death, destroyer of infants?
But I told them -- the angels God sent to bring me back -- that I would not slay the child after a set number of days in infancy, or were it protected by an amulet. And as humanity in their belief decreed that I did this, something within me changed. Before, it had been easy: I lived in anger, in rage, in hate.
Now, within me, something began to soften.
I was afraid. I, who had never known a moment's terror even when I was threatened with death, threatened with never again knowing a home -- to know by this that I was not as hard as I had always made myself to be ... this, indeed, broke me where nothing before had. And I hid in my cave on the shores of the Red Sea and I wept, and realised that I did not wish to kill the children. They had, at the time, done nothing against me; it was their parents, their ancestors, their God who had made me what I was, who killed my children. Even if by doing this I made their parents weep and grieve as I did, was it worth the deaths of innocents?
It mattered not, for I had no choice in the matter. They believed, and so it had to be.
I am become death ...
And that, for them, was not enough. Time wore on, and they blamed me for more. Not only did I cause the deaths of children, but now I seduced men away from their wives in the bargain -- I and my daughters, called by many the lilim. Christianity, born of the religion which had spawned me, laid this at my feet moreso than any before: I was infidelity, seduction, the harlot for men to point at and blame their lechery on -- and then to point out again to their wives and daughters and say, "This is what you should not be." If this was so, why did they make me like that? If I was born of their imaginings, why was I not what they seemed to want?
I learned. Men -- and all of humanity -- so often speak one thing aloud when they desire another fervently, even when the other is the complete opposite. They speak, and think if they say it often enough by virtue of repetition it will be true. My presence speaks otherwise. My nature does so.
I am the outcast. I am your uninvited guest.
I steal into your homes, I could say to the women, uninvited and unannounced, and there is no door or lock strong enough to keep me out. And when I leave, I take with me the virtue of your husbands and the lives of your infants, for I was created thus -- by men, that they have the means to blame you. I am the darkness in your own hearts, the desire for something more than life as an extension of another.
... I am the softness that lurks in your heart, yearning to be expressed. My sisters, my daughters, will you not hear me?
But I never spoke. Perhaps they never let me. Perhaps I never tried.
Time wore on. I had thought I was safe. Never again will I believe such a self-deluding lie.
They romanticised me. They glorified me. They took my name for their causes, remade me yet again. I was their first rebel, their independent woman who would not let any man triumph over her. I was the sister of Eve, and she and I conspired -- to what ends I never knew, for it was either unimportant or they could never agree. I was a figure of desire still, but strange things: they brought the myth of Cain-my-nephew together with that of the vampire and created another story, and I too had my part in that, as a vampire in truth. Blood is a strange taste; I cannot say I like it.
The stories conflict. The beliefs conflict. I, with myself, conflict.
I am become madness, unable to hold myself together, unable to tear myself apart.
And I write this to try to put myself back together, to try to remember who I am, or was, or will be -- but all I find is that perhaps I never was there for myself. I was born of the minds of humanity; can I ever be anything but what they believe? If I find the strings of their belief, cut myself free from them and attempt to make my own way, what then? If they forget me, will I disappear?
There are no answers. All I have to me are questions and this patchwork heritage, this crazy-quilt of beliefs. Here in the night, in the company of owls and snakes and the ghosts of dead children, all I can do is wait and see where their beliefs will take me next.
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